Google Fit hits Play Store to rival Apple’s HealthKit

29 Oct 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Five ways Google is making it easier to travel the world.

Google is the latest tech company to enter the health and fitness game with a dedicated Google Fit Android app that tracks steps and plugs into wearables and other fitness apps. Happily, there happened to be a stall selling umbrellas and, even though I can’t speak Chinese (traditional) nor the vendor English (British), my Android did the talking and I managed to pick one up for T$150.Similar to Apple’s HealthKit, the Google Fit platform is basically a bunch of APIs for apps and device manufacturers to store and access activity data from fitness apps and sensors in Android smartphones and other devices such as wearables and Internet of Things devices.

Working in a similar way to Moves, which was acquired by Facebook earlier this year, Google Fit takes advantage of the sensors on a phone, such as the accelerometer and GPS, to track movements and provide a run down of daily and weekly fitness activities. “Reach your fitness goals [by setting] goals based on duration or steps, see your progress throughout the day [and] receive performance-based recommendations for activity goals.” The app not only gives a comprehensive view of your fitness but lets you connect third-party devices and apps to display all fitness data in one place. It is capable of tracking steps, recording them through the day and giving a basic history of steps through the week, as well as heart rate for those watches equipped with heart rate sensors. Other confirmed partners include Withings, Noom, Runtastic, RunKeeper, Polar and HTC, yet another hint that the Taiwanese firm is planning a smartwatch. Unlike Motorola’s dedicated Moto 360 heart rate sensor app, Google Fit requires the user to manually measure their heart rate, rather than automatically taking it throughout at the day.

Although this fitness app follows Google’s new Material Design guidelines and was announced alongside Android Lollipop, Google Fit is available to all users running Android 4.0 and up. µ The Android app for smartphones, tablets and browsers allows users to review their history, set goals and track steps, heart rate and calories burnt like any number of other fitness tracking apps, including Facebook’s Moves app and Samsung’s S Health app. I’d come to Ok Google London to be shown all the nifty things my Android phone can help with when travelling, which includes using the Translate app in a two-way conversation to buy an umbrella, or take a photo of a shop sign to find out what the Chinese characters mean in English.

You can download your chosen language(s) to use offline when abroad, and if you feel like a twit speaking into your phone to hand to a Taiwanese umbrella-seller to voice his reply into, you can also scribble or type the phrase onto the phone screen. If I’d done my research, I would have known, using this part of the Google Now function, that there was a thunderstorm heading my way, simply by asking my phone, “will I need an umbrella in Taipei today?” iPhone users will recognise this as their suave PA, Siri. Google Fit was first announced by Google in June at the company’s I/O developer conference, following Apple’s announcement of its Health Kit for its World Wide Developers Conference earlier that month. At a film premiere for The Hangout, this newly-updated app proved how fast technology is moving – my two-year-old HTC One was way out of date and I had to borrow a Google Nexus 6 phone to explore the camera’s capabilities.

Essentially, it’s as impressive as Apple’s HDR iSight camera, allowing you to add filters, blur backgrounds and “Auto Awesome” your photos when they’re uploaded to the cloud to cluster them into a little Gif, or brighten up smiles, or even make them more cheerful. I was also shown the highly dazzling, utterly geeky feature that is Android Beam – touch two phones back-to-back and photos (or maps or documents) are shared between the devices using NFC (that’s Near Field Communication technology, a sort of highly localised Bluetooth field). Using the Maps app, we were able to discover not only the best route to head in to avoid traffic jams and road works, but places to explore in a three-mile radius from our current location depending on the time of day, from breakfast cafes to late-night Chinese restaurants. Moreover, Google uses not only your own previous Google searches, but those of friends and family in your Google+ network (if you subscribe to it) to sprinkle your maps with local recommendations, which is either an incomparable crowdsourcing facility that no other map service can currently offer (according to Googler Adrian Carter), or slightly terrifying (if you’re me).

This being Google-world, my phone swiftly re-appeared and when the carriage doors opened, I was back to reality again. “Ok Google, take me home.” It didn’t work this time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one day in the not-too-distant future, it did.

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